Like This Page to Raise Money for the NoH8 Campaign

Just a quick post today. I wanted to share the story of the amazing Montgomery-Duban Family. When gay marriage was briefly legalized in California in 2008, Chelsea Montgomery-Duban pleaded with her fathers to get married…and they did. Unfortunately, during this time the campaign for Prop 8 began and Chelsea became aware of the ignorance and intolerance of some people. She posted the speech she gave at her fathers wedding on YouTube and the video quickly went viral.

The video also caught the attention of various human rights organizations and she was asked to speak at HRC galas around the country and PFLAG dinners. Speaking at the Human Rights Campaign Los Angeles Gala after Senator Barbara Boxer, she received a standing ovation. Did I mention that she just turned 18 last month? Dennis Lawrence Duban and Kevin Scot Montgomery have raised their daughter well.  Chelsea is truly a remarkable young woman. All three of them have done remarkable things for equality and now they want to do even more. If 100,000 people like the page below by September 1, they’ll donate $10,000 to the NoH8 Campaign. Eleven thousand likes are still needed with just over 22 hours left. So, please visit the page below and like it. Do your part for equality.

http://www.montgomery-duban.com/noh8/embed/

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NoH8 at the LA Aids Walk

When I started this blog, I mentioned that I wanted to highlight a different human rights organization each month. Well, it’s that time again. This month I want to talk about the NoH8 Campaign.

 On November 4, 2008, Proposition 8 passed in California, which amended the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The hugely discriminatory “Prop 8” provoked quite a few initiatives in the LGBT community. Many new organizations were formed to protest this amendment. As stated on the NoH8 website:

 The NoH8 Campaign is a photographic silent protest created by celebrity photographer Adam Bouska (<- link: http://www.bouska.net) and partner Jeff Parshley in direct response to the passage of Proposition 8. Photos feature subjects with duct tape over their mouths, symbolizing their voices being silenced by Prop 8 and similar legislation around the world, with “NoH8” painted on one cheek in protest.

It’s been nearly two and a half years and the NoH8 Campaign now includes over 13,000 faces and is still growing. The campaign started with every day Californians and has now grown to include politicians, military personnel, newlyweds, law enforcement, artists, celebrities and many more.

There has been an overwhelming amount of support for this campaign from around the world and the images can be seen everywhere. They frequently make appearances on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter to spread the message of equality. The idea is that eventually the images will be compiled for a large-scale media campaign.

I was lucky enough to be able to take part in one of the photo shoots, hosted by the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia earlier this month. I’ll be posting the picture once I receive it. I would encourage everyone to get involved and take part in one of the upcoming open photo shoots. You can pose individually or as part of a group for a discount and all proceeds go to the campaign efforts to repeal Prop 8. To see if there’s an upcoming shoot near you, please click on the image below.

 On October 16, 2011, APLA (AIDS Project Los Angeles) will be hosting their annual fundraiser, AIDS Walk Los Angeles. I’ll be walking with the NoH8 Campaign as they are hosting a team for the second consecutive year in order to help raise awareness for HIV and AIDS. All funds raised by the NoH8 Campaign and AIDS Walk Los Angeles goes directly to APLA. Since it began in 1985, AIDS Walk Los Angeles has benefited APLA, an AIDS service organization dedicated to improving the lives of people affected by HIV and AIDS.

 I strongly urge everyone living in or visiting the Los Angeles area in October to come out and support the cause. If you can’t make it to the event personally and have the means to do so, please consider making a donation directly by clicking the link below. Thank you, everyone, for your support.

As most of you know, my sister and I are going to LA in October. We’re going to be joining the NoH8 Campaign at the LA AIDS walk. We’d be eternally grateful for any contributions made to the cause. (Donations can be made by clicking on the link.)

A great new PSA created by the NoH8 Campaign in response to Freedom to Marry’s letter to President Obama:

Michele Bachmann Still Silent on Local Suicides

Last week, I posted an article about Tea Party Nation’s Rich Swier and his dangerous position on the bullying of LGBT youth. I didn’t think anything could upset me as much as reading his interviews, but obviously, I was wrong. For those who read this blog regularly, you know that advocating for gay…make that human rights is one of the things I speak most passionately about. The only thing that makes me angrier than small-minded people belittling any minority is when they target that minority’s youth. We spend so much time arguing on these issues that sometimes we forget that this fight isn’t just affecting the adults in this world, but also our children.

 I have always said that as adults, it’s our duty to protect our nation’s youth. There are enough things to fear in this world without having to deal with being terrorized at school as well. In the last two years there have been nine suicides in Minnesota’s biggest school district, which also happens to be Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s district. All nine of these students were either gay or perceived to be gay and all nine had dealt with relentless bullying. Michele Bachmann isn’t the only one who’s remained silent on this matter. This is one of the districts that has enacted the “don’t say gay” rule, which means that teachers and counselors aren’t allowed to bring up homosexuality in the school. They call it a “neutrality” policy, but unfortunately this policy protects those that bully more than those who are the victims of bullying.

The Departments of Justice and Education have opened a federal investigation into the overwhelming number of student suicides in that district in recent years. The situation has gotten so bad that state public health officials have deemed the district a “suicide contagion” area, but it’s not clear yet whether or not the district’s neutrality policy will play a part in the investigation. As I stated previously, Michele Bachmann has yet to utter one word on the recent deaths. She has been an anti-gay advocate for her entire career. She signed a pledge earlier this month stating that homosexuality is a choice despite all the scientific studies that have proven the contrary. In fact, she owns a Christian counseling center with her husband that allegedly performs reparative therapy. A member of Truth Wins Out, a non-profit that fights anti-gay religious extremism, went under cover in the clinic to show some of the services that are offered.

 

 I don’t understand how in this day and age anyone can still have this archaic view. Even if she doesn’t believe in equality for all, how can she consistently put our youth at risk like this? She has, time after time, rejected anti-bullying laws. In 2006, she said that passing a bill that prevents bullying “wasn’t worth the time.” (Saving those nine lives wasn’t worth the time?)

 She was also quoted as saying: “I think for all of us, our experience in public schools is there have always been bullies. Always have been, always will be. I just don’t know how we’re ever going to get to the point of zero tolerance… What does it mean? … Will we be expecting boys to be girls?”

We’ll never get to the point of zero tolerance if we don’t start somewhere. Ignoring the problem is just as dangerous an attitude to take, as Rich Swier thinking bullying is “healthy.” There are children dying next door to her and she still refuses to speak out.

Numerous studies have shown that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning youth do have a higher rate of suicide attempts than heterosexual youth. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center estimates that between 30% and 40% of LGBTQ youth have attempted suicide. More than 34,000 people die by suicide each year making it the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds, with LGBTQ youth attempting suicide up to four times more than their heterosexual peers. Those numbers are terrifying themselves, but even worse is that at least three of the children who have committed suicide in the last couple of years were only thirteen years old!

For a perfect example of how dangerous bullying really is, take a look at Seth Walsh, a thirteen year old who took his life in September of last year. According to friends at school, the day he died, he was bullied by classmates who told him “the world doesn’t need another queer. You should go home and hang yourself”…and he did. How can anyone claim that this type of behavior isn’t dangerous? It’s been going on long enough.

 

 Something needs to change and it needs to happen quickly before any more lives are lost. I think the “neutrality” policies in these schools are just as dangerous as the bullying itself. Bullying is a result of ignorance and if we aren’t allowed to educate these kids, they’ll never learn and the same mistakes will keep being made. I’ve talked about a few of my favorite non-profits recently, such as the HRC and the Trevor Project, but I want to mention another one that’s close to my heart.

 The only thing that I’m more passionate about than LGBT rights is the rights of LGBTQ youth. A 2009 National School Climate Survey found that nearly nine out of ten LGBT students experience harassment in school. The GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes towards creating a more vibrant and diverse community.

As with most non-profits, the GLSEN depends on donations and volunteers, so please consider helping out if you can by clicking on the image below

 

 I’m a big advocate of the It Gets Better Project and I support all they are trying to accomplish, but sometimes just the message that it does get better isn’t enough. Sometimes we have to act to make things better. One voice can start a revolution, and that revolution needs to happen now.

 So please, reach out, get involved…and remember the next time you think bullying is a harmless prank…a child’s life might be on the line.

 

Marriage Equality in World Politics

Recently, a friend of mine posted an interview online of the new Australian Prime Minister’s opposition to same-sex marriage. It was an interesting article, as she has a very different background from most groups that oppose marriage equality, which I will further discuss later on. I wanted to take a look at the various marriage laws and how they came about in different countries. Currently, there are ten countries, 5 U.S. states and Washington D.C. that have legalized same-sex marriage.

On April 1, 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage. It wasn’t a quick process. As early as the mid-eighties, a group of gay rights activists asked the government to let same-sex couples marry. In 1995, Parliament decided to create a special commission to research the possibility of same-sex marriages.  The Democratic Christian Appeal was not part of the ruling coalition for the first time since the introduction of full democracy. The commission finished their investigation in 1997 and ruled that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. After the legislative election of 1998, the government promised to tackle the issue. In September 2000, the final draft of the bill was voted on by the Dutch Parliament. The House passed the bill 109-33 and the Senate approved the bill on December 19, 2000. Only the Christian parties, which held 26 of the 75 seats at the time, voted against the bill. The mayor of Amsterdam became a registrar specifically to officiate these ceremonies and on April 1, 2001, four couples were married. Statistics show that by June 2004, more than 6000 same-sex couples had been married in the Netherlands, as Dutch law states that only one of the two people in a gay couple that wishes to marry must have citizenship or reside in the country.

On June 1, 2003, Belgium became the second country to legalize same-sex marriage, but with some restrictions. Originally, Belgian law stated that foreigners could only get married there if similar unions existed in their own countries. However, a law enacted in October 2004 allows any couple to marry in Belgium as long as one of the spouses had resided in the country for at least three months. On May 28, 2002, the bill was introduced to the senate and on November 28 of that same year, it passed by an overwhelming 46-15. On January 30, 2003, the bill passed the House with an even more astounding 91-22. King Albert II signed the bill on February 13, 2003 and by July 22, 2005, the Belgian government announced that approximately 2442 same-sex couple had been married since its enactment.

Spain became the third country to legalize same-sex marriage on July 3, 2005. In 2004, the newly elected socialist government, led by President José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, began campaigning for its legalization. After a lengthy debate, the law was passed by the Cortes Generales (Spain’s bicameral parliament) on June 30, 2005, and approximately 4500 couples were married in the first year. The legalization was not without conflict, however, as Spain is a more religiously conservative country. The Roman Catholics were heavily opposed to the law despite a 66% approval from the population.

On July 20, 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world and the first in the Americas to legalize same-sex marriage, enacting the Civil Marriage Act, which provides a gender neutral definition of marriage. Court decisions in 2003 had already legalized gay marriage in eight of the ten provinces and one of the three territories. Interestingly enough, the Ontario government decided to uphold a marriage performed in Toronto on January 14, 2001, which makes Canada the location of the first legal same-sex marriage in the world.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in South Africa on November 30, 2006. This was probably the most surprising victory for me considering how many gays and lesbians live in fear of their lives in other African countries, such as Uganda, where politicians are currently pushing the Anti-Homosexuality bill, which calls for the death penalty for gay people. This is such a discriminatory and controversial law that even the Roman Catholic Church is publicly opposed to it.

Sweden became the seventh country to legalize same-sex marriage on May 1, 2009 following the passage of a new gender-neutral marriage law by the Swedish parliament. One of the things that I found most surprising about Sweden’s story is that on October 22, 2009, the governing board of the Church of Sweden voted 176-62 for allowing their priests to wed same-sex couples in the new gender-neutral ceremonies, including the use of the term marriage. They were the first Church to take a positive position on the new law. The second and third largest Christian denominations, the Catholic Church and the Pentecostal Movement respectively, said they were “disappointed” with the decision of the Church of Sweden.

Norway legalized same-sex marriage on June 1, 2009, when a gender-neutral marriage bill was passed by the Norwegian legislature. Norway became the first Scandinavian country and the sixth country in the world to legalize gay marriage. Four different polls conducted by Gallup Europe in 2003, Sentio in 2005, Synovate MMI in 2007, and Norstat in 2008, concluded that 61%, 63%, 66%, and 58% respectively, of the Norwegian population supported gender-neutral marriage laws.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Iceland since June 27, 2010. This was yet another gender-neutrality bill that was passed by the Icelandic Althing (their national parliament) on June 11 of that year. No members of parliament actually voted against the bill and public opinion polls show that it was heavily supported bill.

Argentina followed soon after on July 22, 2010. The bill was passed by the Chamber of Deputies on May 5, 2010, and July 15, 2010 by the Senate. Argentina was the first Latin American country and the second in the Americas, following Canada, to pass the law. In a country where the majority of the population is Roman Catholic, the bill passed despite large opposition from the Catholic Church in Argentina led by the Catholic Primate (title or rank given to bishops in certain Christian churches) of Argentina, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Mario Begoglio. Evangelical groups also joined the opposition.

The final full country to legalize same-sex marriage was Portugal on June 5, 2010. The Prime Minister, José Sócrates, introduced the bill in December 2009 and it was passed by the Assembly of the Republic in February 2010. As with other largely Catholic countries, the bill was met with a great deal of opposition. The Catholic Church of Portugal was opposed to the law, and even though Portugal is a constitutionally secular country, its history as a Catholic country was a main reason for the media sensationalism which heightened the controversy. On May 13, 2010, during an official visit, Pope Benedict XVI publicly opposed the bill, calling it “insidious and dangerous”.

In addition to the countries around the world that have legalized same-sex marriage, many jurisdictions have their own laws. For instance, same-sex marriage became legal in Mexico City on March 4, 2010. Even though that’s the only city in Mexico where these unions can be performed, anyone in Mexico can get married there. In the U.S. there are six states and D.C. that perform same-sex marriages: Massachusetts legalized it in 2004, Connecticut in 2008, D.C., Iowa, and Vermont in 2009, New Hampshire in 2010 and New York in 2011. With the Defense of Marriage Act being signed into law in 1996, states are not required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The Obama administration has now declared DOMA unconstitutional and it’s being considered for repeal.

Gay marriage has begun, and life has not changed for the citizens of the commonwealth (referring to Massachusetts being the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage), with the exception of those who can now marry.  –  Brian Lees (One of the original sponsors for the amendment to ban gay marriages.)

It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come even in the last 10 years even though we still have a long way to go. Homosexuality was not fully legalized in the United States until 2003 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas’ anti-sodomy law in Lawrence vs. Texas. Meanwhile, it’s still illegal in all of Northern Africa with penalties ranging from two years in prison up to the death penalty depending on country. There are a few reasons that I wanted to do this piece on the marriage laws in the world. I wanted to take a look at the reasons for opposition as well as the change in public opinion. Looking back, public opinion has been changing for a while now. Where the majority of the population of the world opposed same-sex marriage when the advocacy groups started their campaigns, with a little education, public opinion over the last decade has swung in our favor. I have noticed that the great majority of opposition comes from religious conservatives. I have heard three main arguments that I want to address: 1. We have to preserve the sanctity of marriage. (With a 53% divorce rate in the U.S. and Larry King on his ninth wife, I’m not sure this argument is really valid.) 2. We have to protect our children. (An Alabama case took a lesbian woman’s children away and gave custody to her abusive ex-husband. How is that protecting our children?) 3. Homosexuality is an abomination. (See my article: Equality vs. Religion.) So, if the main arguments are marriage, children, and religious beliefs, what is the Prime Minister of Australia’s excuse?

In an interview, the new Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, stated that she’s against gay marriage. Now, we’re definitely used to government leaders opposing these unions. However, the majority of them have conservative and religious beliefs to back up their reasoning. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. She’s never been married (she actually lives with her boyfriend), she has no children and she’s an atheist. When asked why she opposes the change in law, she talked about her conservative upbringing and her “respect” of other people’s beliefs. She also mentioned that current opinion prefers that the law continues defining marriage as one man and one woman, but this seems to be a contradiction, as public polls actually show that the population is largely in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. She has made it clear that as long as she’s prime minister, gays and lesbians will not be allowed to marry, and she’s taking her anti-gay policy global. She has instructed the Australian government to deny couples access to CNI (Certificate of No-Impediment to Marriage) documents, thereby prohibiting same-sex couples from getting married overseas.

While our governments have the final say, they do listen to public opinion (most of the time), so I would encourage everyone to get involved. I have often said that we can’t keep complaining about the inequality in the world if we’re not willing to stand up and do something about it. I urge everyone to reach out to your local legislators and let them know where you stand on these issues. Sign this letter to your lawmakers urging them to repeal DOMA. If you want to contact your legislators separately and you don’t know who they are, here’s a list of legislators by district in Maryland. As many of you know, I’m also a huge advocate of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and they’re always looking for volunteers for their coalition of marriage campaigns. So, please, reach out. Let your opinion be known. It matters!

***On a side note***

When you use the Bible as your excuse for restricting marriage equality, know what you’re supporting:

Philly QFest 2011: Finding Mr. Wright

As you all know, I’m a big fan of the independent gay film genre and an even bigger fan of Matthew Montgomery.  So when I heard that his new movie was coming to the Philadelphia QFest, I knew I had to see it.

“Boy Meets Girl, Boy Helps Girl, Girl Helps Boy get Boy”

As someone who has complained of late that all the storylines seem to be the same, this one was refreshingly new. Clark Townsend (Montgomery) is a work-obsessed gay man who seemingly has it all. Not only is he one of the hottest young men in West Hollywood, he has managed to turn his first client, Eddy Malone (Rebekah Kochan), an eccentric party girl, into one of the most sought after actresses in Hollywood. He throws a dinner party at his new condo and invites his friends and colleagues, including TJ (Rasool J’Han), a powerhouse lesbian publicist, who’s quickly losing patience with Eddy’s wild ways. With TJ comes longtime friend, Pierce Wright (David Moretti), a slightly awkward, down to Earth, spiritual life coach who becomes infatuated with Clark at first sight. However, Clark is far too wrapped up in Eddy to notice, especially when she pulls a stunt that threatens her career and forces TJ to drop her as a client once and for all. Hoping to win Clark over, Pierce makes a deal with TJ. He’ll take Eddy and crew on a wilderness therapy retreat, so he can convince her there’s more to life than parties, and TJ will give her another chance. That weekend, the group of them head to a cabin in the woods, where Pierce hopes to give not only Eddy a new perspective on life, but Clark as well…

I know I stated before that I’m an avid Matthew Montgomery (Back Soon, Long-term Relationship, Socket) fan and I haven’t seen a work from him yet that I didn’t enjoy. I would have seen Finding Mr. Wright just for that. However, I have to give props where they’re due, and in this piece the entire cast blew me away. David Moretti (The Lair) plays the awkward but sweet Pierce to perfection. There were several instances in which I wanted to smack Clark upside the head to get him to notice. I’ve also been a Rebekah Kochan (Homewrecker, the upcoming Crimson Creek) fan since the Eating Out series and I think this has to be one of her best roles. She was hilarious and crazy, yet she also managed to make Eddy sympathetic. You just had to like her. My favorite, though, was probably Rasool J’Han (Socket, Pornography: A Thriller) as the angry, black  lesbian, TJ. Her deadpan delivery of the witty dialogue was just flawless.

I also want to give shout outs to the stars behind the scenes. With so many things going on at once, it could have easily been chaos, but Nancy Criss directed this entire film beautifully. Jake Helgren wrote the screenplay and I never would have believed this was his first feature film. The movie was produced by Nancy Criss, Tracy Wright and Matthew Montgomery (is there anything he doesn’t do?) in conjunction with Nandar Entertainment and Proteus Pictures.

Finding Mr. Wright kept me engaged from the opening to closing credits. I found myself laughing, but also really feeling for these characters. The dialogue was witty and heartwarming. It moved at just the right pace and I found myself wishing it wouldn’t end. I was definitely left wanting more and I already can’t wait to see it again. It comes out on DVD and Blu-ray with plenty of wonderful extras promised on September 1, and I know I’ll be picking up my copy as soon as it’s available. For the rest of you Montgomery fans out there, Nandar Home Entertainment is also offering a special edition boxed set of Finding Mr. Wright and Role/Play.

And just to show you how multi-talented these guys are, be sure to check out Matthew Montgomery’s directorial debut in Crimson Creek coming out in 2012, starring Rebekah Cochan, Nancy Criss and Tracy Wright.

**On an unrelated note**

I’m always looking for worthy causes to promote and I’ve definitely found one in this. Matthew Montgomery has announced that he is doing the LA Aids Walk again this October and I would encourage everyone who can to consider donating by clicking the image above.

A Victory for Seattle

Today’s post is going to be short, but I wanted to talk about a small victory. Although the fundraiser that I was talking about yesterday for the Seattle Space Needle failed to raise the complete $50,000, it did manage to bring in an impressive $40, 031.47 in a short period of time.

So, in thanks for the fundraising efforts of the community, the Space Needle decided to raise the flag anyway and today, it was hoisted by change.org’s Joe Mirabella and the starter of the petition, Josh Castle. There are pictures of the event. They are property of the Gay Rights fanpage on Facebook. Please click on either image to be redirected to their page. Please “like” them! We can always use more supporters.

Josh Castle and change.org's Joe Mirabella

Josh Castle Raising the Pride Flag

I’ll be signing off now, so I’ll keep this short and simple. Have a great Pride, Seattle! You deserve it.